Pandora: Commissioner red-faced as data tsar has details swiped

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The Independent Online

When Alistair Darling prompted wide-eyed panic after announcing the lost discs palaver, there were few more concerned voices than that of our information commissioner, Richard Thomas.

At the time, Mr Thomas, the data tsar who, in the wake of the crisis, has spent the past few weeks issuing warnings about the danger of ID fraud on the internet, described the Government's blunder as "unprecedented and deeply disturbing".

So it has just come as considerable embarrassment to Mr Thomas to learn that he has recently been exposed as being just as vulnerable as the rest of us. In an experiment carried out by an internet security consultancy called SecureTest, it took just half an hour to discover the details of three bank accounts held by Mr Thomas, as well as his age, his home address and his work email.

"What hope have we got if Mr Thomas can't even protect his own identity?" says a spokesman for the company. "I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see if Mr Thomas practises what he preaches. It was easier than I could possibly have imagined."

SecureTest say that they were able to glean most of the information on Mr Thomas from Freedom of Information requests, and from a register-of-interests declaration he submitted when he took the governmental position in 2002.

Which makes you wonder whether Mr Thomas has double-checked his bank statements recently. His office insists that Mr Thomas "uses secure passwords for his accounts".

Blunt likely to feel well at home on the piste

If recent reports are to be believed, James Blunt may be the latest entertainer to emigrate in a bid to dodge the prying eyes of the taxman. The scruffy crooner is apparently holed up in the Swiss town of Verbier, where he would be able to shield his estimated 10m fortune.

If true, Blunt is unlikely to get much more privacy over there, as his celebrity in the small skiing resort comfortably matches his status in England. Not only is there a ski-lift named after him, the locals all remember him as a noted swordsman during his skiing holidays there as a pimply youth.

"He used to do very well for himself," notes one regular. "Last season, I even saw some of the chalet girls working out there wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan 'James Blunt Took My Virginity'.

"I can't believe he had all of them, but going on Blunty's previous form, I suppose you can never rule anything out."

The wanderer returns?

After what seems like a lifetime of globetrotting, Michael Palin has finally made a long-awaited return to acting.

Well, sort of. This Christmas, he will appear in the BBC's new Robbie the Reindeer animation, which will be broadcast on Christmas Day. According to a BBC spokesman, Palin will voice the character of a "very old alien called Gary".

Although this will mark Palin's first official acting credit for more than 10 years he made an unlikely cameo in the Aussie soap Home and Away back in 1997 a spokesman claims that this is just a one-off.

"He just did the voice-over in a studio for a few hours," he says dismissively. "There's nothing else planned. He'll decide next year what he wants to do next."

No cigar

A portrait of Ken Clarke has been added to the parliamentary art collection, but it's only likely to appeal to the purists.

On Tuesday afternoon, a painting of the former Chancellor by the British artist James Lloyd was unveiled in Portcullis House.

But for some reason, Lloyd has chosen to paint the jovial bon viveur in just shirtsleeves and tie, omitting any of Ken's trademarks such as his fedora hat, cigar or cheerful Hush Puppy shoes. As one colleague rightly points out, it's a bit like showing Michael Foot without his scruffy donkey jacket.

Says Ken: "I like the portrait very much, but I am still trying to work out what it's saying about my personality."

Boris sticks to pedal power

With admirable defiance, Boris Johnson has refused to trade in his rusty old bicycle in favour of a less energy-zapping two-wheeler.

Johnson, along with his London mayoral rivals Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick, has been offered the free use of a brand new Oxygen electric scooter. Its manufacturers claim that this battery-powered mode of transport will get him around the capital more quickly than, and in an equally environmentally friendly manner as, his pedal bicycle.

But Bozza, mindful of any companies bearing gifts, and particularly during the mayoral campaign, has politely spurned the offer.

"We've had a number of offers, but Boris won't be doing any commercial endorsements in his campaign," says a spokesman.